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October 17, 2022 1:01 pm
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Safety of Turkish Mines Questioned after Blast Kills 41

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

General view shows Amasra coal mine in the northern Bartin province, Turkey October 16, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan

Turkey‘s main opposition party and an engineering industry body questioned safety protocols on Monday after an explosion at a state-run mine killed 41 workers, stirring memories of the country’s worst mining disaster eight years ago.

The blast on Friday at the Amasra coal mine owned by state-run Turkish Hard Coal Institution (TTK) was the deadliest since a fire at a mine in Soma, western Turkey, in 2014 killed 301 miners and raised similar safety concerns.

The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said a report by Turkey‘s Court of Accounts, a state audit authority, had warned in 2019 of risks at the mine in Amasra in the northern Black Sea region.

Emin Koramaz, head of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, said inspections were not carried out adequately partly because staff numbers had been reduced, cutting qualified personnel.

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“Mining accidents in Turkey have become routine,” Koramaz told Reuters. “The main reason… is that mining science is being ignored (and) a lack of technical knowledge and infrastructure.”

Authorities have launched a probe into the explosion that occurred 300-350 meters underground at the Amasra mine.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Monday a fire at the mine was largely under control and production had been stopped completely. He promised to elaborate on the situation in parliament on Tuesday.

Footage at the weekend of families huddled and watching as rescuers pulled people from the mine and off to ambulances recalled images of the underground fire at the privately-owned Soma mine in 2014, which shocked Turkey.

The 2019 Court of Accounts report detailed risks related to low staff levels and inadequacies in the dangerous-gas measurement system at Amasra mine, Veli Agbaba, the CHP’s deputy leader, told reporters on Monday.

According to an excerpt of the report shared by the CHP on Twitter, output there had reached a depth of 300 meters, where gas levels were high, increasing the risk of sudden gas discharges and gas explosions.

“The warnings are there (in the report). It is clear what the workers said before the accident,” Agbaba said. “Wherever you look, there is negligence. There is indifference.”

TTK, in a statement in response to media references to the Court of Accounts report, said: “Production in all our facilities is carried out in strict compliance with mining occupational health and safety rules.”

Agbaba said data from Turkey‘s occupational health and safety council showed 53 miners died in sector accidents in the first nine months of 2022, while TTK cut its workforce to 7,370 by 2021 from 18,025 in 2001.

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